President Donald Trump meets Tuesday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington with drug company executives, including Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. Pool photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 31 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump told leading drugmakers at the White House on Tuesday to cut their "astronomical" drug prices and offered to help them with quicker approval of new medicine.
"We have to get the prices way down," Trump said. "We have to get lower prices, we have to get even better innovation, and I want you to move your companies back to the United States. I want you to manufacture in the United States."
The new president vowed to help the pharmaceutical companies by making it easier for them to win regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration for new drugs.
"New drugs have led to longer, healthier lives -- we all know that -- but we have to do better accelerating cures," Trump said. "We're forced and focused on accelerating FDA approvals. We're gonna get the approval process much faster."
Trump said he it's "not going to take 15 years" to get new drugs on the market.
"They come up with a new drug for a patient who's terminal and the FDA says we can't have this drug used on the patient. But they say, 'But the patient within four weeks will be dead,'" he said. "They say, 'Well, we still can't approve the drug and we don't know if the drug works or if it doesn't work, but we can't approve the drug because we don't want to hurt the patient.' But the patient is not gonna live more than four weeks. So we're gonna be changing a lot of the rules."
Attending the meeting were the CEOs of Merck, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson, as well as the head of the trade group PhRMA and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.
He sympathized with the companies forced to charge low prices in other countries. Trump said the nations are "freeloading" on the United States with price controls of products there.
"We're going to be changing a lot of the rules," Trump said. "We're going to be ending global freeloading. Foreign price controls reduce the resources of American drug companies to finance drug and [research and development] innovation. I think you people know very well, it's very unfair to this country."
The president said that "competition is the key to lower drug prices" and he criticized the regulations that bar Medicare from negotiating drug prices.